Integrity management and the public service ethos in the UK: patchwork quilt or threadbare blanket?

This article focuses on integrity management in contemporary UK public life. Despite traditionally high standards of integrity in the public service, it has recently been argued that the UK’s approach resembles a patchwork quilt of poorly defined institutional roles, questionable independence, and contested notions of how best to disseminate and uphold ethical practice. The article traces how the British public service ethos (PSE), which places emphasis on informal codes of conduct and moral integrity, has evolved within broader systemic changes to the style of public service delivery. It is argued that pressures to decentralize public service delivery sit in tension with, and feed into, piecemeal attempts to centralize and codify integrity management. This dynamic is presented in terms of the tension between compliance-based and values-based approaches to integrity management. The article is structured in three parts. The first traces the evolution of the British public service ethos in order to situate integrity management in both its institutional and structural context. The second addresses recent academic debates and recommendations from key bodies such as the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) and the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee (PASC). It is shown how recommendations to create independent statutory bodies of ethical oversight have not been fully implemented. The third part seeks to place the UK experience within a broader context. In doing so, the article reflects on ways in which we can understand the concept and application of integrity management within and beyond the UK experience.

Paul M Heywood, ‘Integrity management and the public service ethos in the UK: patchwork quilt or threadbare blanket?’, International Review of Administrative Sciences 78/3, pp.474-93 (Sage).